By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
It’s been clear over the past few years, ok decades, that youth sports are replacing church involvement. Young families are facing difficult decisions about church attendance, and many church members are viewing sports as a threat, an assault on our faith and to the future of the local church.
Certainly, the vast majority of North American churches are in decline. Many, like Alto, are stable and see just enough growth to offset the decrease in attendance of those who once were consistent weekly attenders. At the same time, we all see the ever increasing influence of youth sports and the increased demands placed on players and their families.
Sure, if you play baseball you can simply attend games or practice twice a week, but if you want to get in the game more, you’ll tack on the Wednesday night practice. And then the traveling team coach calls... “it’s just a few extra practices and some weekend tournaments for the best of the best.” How can you pass up such a great opportunity? College is only 10 years away and this could be the key to a chance at a full-ride scholarship.
Ruth Moon explains, “Whether or not organized sports are Public Enemy No. 1 for churches, they still represent a symbolic challenge: how to engage members in a changing culture.” (Game Changer: Pastors Blame Kids' Sports for Attendance Dips: Would embracing organized youth sports help?, RUTH MOON, AUGUST 27, 2013)
When Rod Tucker spoke with our Equipping Teams and other church discipleship leaders back in March, we did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. One of the greatest threats articulated was youth sports. Rod challenged us to consider how we could move this from a threat to an opportunity.
That’s a profound shift in thinking. If sports are a threat, we must fight the trend and seek to restore what was. If sports are an opportunity, we must find new ways to engage our members and reach the community through this trend. Efforts to return to the past have pitted the church against the non-church attenders and young families trying to do what they see is best. This certainly does not help us reach the world with the love of Christ.
Back to my starting questions… “Are sports sabotaging the faith in America?” If we honestly consider this question, we must acknowledge blaming cultural trends is not particularly helpful. We can’t even blame the coaches, organizations, or parents. It’s a trend that reveals our cultures deep longing for joy… to see kids succeed, to escape stress, and to hope in a better future. If faith can thrive under a culture of persecution, then faith can thrive under a culture of sports.
In the coming weeks, we will be teaching on ways we can make sports an opportunity for discipleship and outreach. I do hope you will join us for the series, and if you’re gone to a game, you can always catch us on Facebook Live or consider watching some of these videos on RightNow Media (Signup for a free account at https://www.altoreformedchurch.org/resources.html.)
For the moment, I simply want you to evaluate your view of youth sports. Consider these questions…
By Adrea Daane
I spent part of my week doing research on parenting resources in RightNow Media. With so many options I began to get overwhelmed. After watching several hours of materials, I came up with two different resources that I found to be the most helpful and engaging. Now, these might not be for you, and if not, I encourage you to do a little research yourself and see what interests you. As parents we are given the most important opportunity…to shape these little people into adults who love Jesus and grow into people who lead lives that are pleasing to Him. This is a daily struggle for myself and I’m guessing others feel like they’re stuck or failing miserably. These resources, although they didn’t change my parenting overnight, gave me some confidence in who I should try to be as a parent in the eyes of God.
The first resource I dove into was “Have a New Kid By Friday”. This was a great 5-day resource that gave great insights into “why your kids do what they do and what you can do about it”. This program looked into how to change your child’s attitude, behavior, and character in 5 days and focused on how as parents we need to change our parenting and in doing so, can impact our children.
“Intentional Parenting” by Doug Fields was the second resource I found to be helpful. This video series was shorter in length and focused on how as parents we tend to fall back onto quick fix parenting when we should be more intentional. Doug took me through a five-session course where he discussed his 10 ways in which we as parents can and should become more intentional. During each episode my heart was invigorated, and my spirit was lifted into taking on this new challenge. Now comes the hard part…putting those lessons into action and not just putting them in my mental shelves of knowledge.
I challenge each of you as parents, if you’re looking for some encouragement or guidance in your parenting, to go to RightNow and do some digging. Keeping Jesus at the center of how you parent and the focus of your home is crucial to building up little people in Christ. I know this is something I want to continue to push myself to be better at, because it’s not just affecting me…it’s affecting my kiddos too.
Are You Hearing from God?
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
Have you ever been desperate to hear from God? Have you longed to know what his specific will is for you?
I certainly have. Sometimes it’s been huge decisions, like whether to marry Stephanie, to go to seminary, or to move to Alto. Others are much simpler, like what sermon series to tackle next, who should I contact today, or when to have a difficult conversation.
Some would say God is not concerned with our day-to-day decisions, just his ultimate will… the big picture. While I wrestle with God having a specific plan for the Bucks to win and the Brewers to lose, God does clearly guide believers in the New Testament. The book of Acts is filled with examples of God directing decisions, changing travel plans, restructuring the church, and giving words to speak.
We can’t know these plans unless we listen. But, this is dangerous…
"It’s hard to overemphasize the dangers inherent in believing that one is receiving “inspired” messages from the Spirit. Scripture is inspired and therefore authoritative (2 Timothy 3:16). But the “nudges,” “feelings,” intuitions, and random thoughts a person has while meditating cannot be put on the same level as Scripture. To assume that the voice a person hears in his mind is the voice of God is to leave the door wide open for self-delusion and even demonic deception.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/listening-prayer.html)
Yet, we clearly see that the Holy Spirit does speak to his people and give direction when they pray…
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)
So, should we listen for God? To say “no” rejects all forms of communication beyond reading the Bible… prophecy, teaching, preaching, visions, and dreams. However, the Bible affirms that God does use these methods to communicate. Believers are urged to “wait” and be “watchful.” When Jesus retreated to quiet places, he certainly did not just speak to the Father. He heard the Father and then spoke what the Father told him. So, “yes,” we must listen to God, and finding a quiet place with no TV, radio, or phone will certainly help.
At the same time, remember that God speaks on his terms. He mostly interrupts people and speaks when they are not really listening. Often he speaks through other people and even more so through the Bible. The act of listening is not about emptying your mind, but about…
There are dangers in elevating our thoughts above the Bible, but also in rejecting, quenching, and grieving the Holy Spirit. His Word and Spirit speak together! You don’t need to chant mantra’s, follow a labyrinth, or practice deep breathing.
If you want guidance from God, start here…
May God give you great wisdom and humility as you seek to follow him.
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